FROM THE BOARDROOM

FROM THE BOARDROOM

I spent part of Monday evening with Harry Zakhour and Alhaji Hearts at Ghana Television. Yes we have reached that singular point in the year when all sports lovers await in anticipation of the titanic struggle between Fabulous Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak.

This is my first season in Ghana soccer and I have learnt a number of things very quickly indeed. The first is that there are two clubs that all other clubs play beyond themselves to win and they are Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak and the second is that the biggest sporting moment in Ghana is when these two great clubs compete. Since I became the Chairman of Asante Kotoko this is the third time we are to meet. On the first occasion we lost in Kumasi and on the second occasion, with a Cup at stake we won at the Accra sports stadium. On both occasions Harry and I demonstrated that we could be competitive and yet professional. There was no violence at all. By the way I hope that those who watched Sporting Highlights had a sense of humour.

When we meet this Sunday pride will be at stake. Hearts have already won the league and we are still rebuilding. Every match for us gives us a further and clearer indication of where we are in that rebuilding process. It is not easy to assess. For a team rebuilding we have made great strides indeed! There are not many clubs who can claim this position after all the trials and tribulations that the playing and technical body as well as management and supporters have been through. 1999 has been one hell of a year for this great club. People will debate the greatness of the Kotoko players against that of Accra Hearts of Oak. The truth of the matter is that there is little to choose between the two teams. Hearts have just played together as a team. The spirit of the two teams will be on trial on Sunday. We have to win and entertain and that is what we intend doing. We are conscious of the fact that Hearts have lost to Okwawu, Dwarfs and Olympics leading up to this match but we are also aware that these results are meaningless. Indeed there are some people who believe that Hearts “gave” these matches away! On Sunday all will be forgotten when the giants clash! Many will sight history others will sight many reasons based on their passions and their wills….wills to win! I believe that Kotoko have what it takes and will do what they have to ….God allowing!

I always say that Asante Kotoko is the biggest and greatest Club in Africa and has the greatest supporters. This is very true. Part of the challenge for us will be to fill the Accra Sports Stadium for the Sunday match. It is a shame that Accra Hearts of Oak will not be giving Kotoko say 35% of gate takings for this match rather the 25% that we are to collect. I say this because Asante Kotoko fans will fill the stadium. We have continuously shown this season an ability to fill the Kumasi Sports Stadium. The TV discussion with Kwabena Yeboah was one step to make sure that the fans turn up. I followed that up with radio interviews with Gold and Joy. By the time of the match I will have visited most radio stations and made sure that the selling job on the match has taken place. Easy …no but it has to be done. We have worked very hard to increase the attendance in Kumasi when we play and we have succeeded.

On Saturday opposite Holy Gardens we will be having a Kotoko rally. Nowadays I insist in meeting the supporters rather than only their leadership. It will give management a chance to talk about the scratch and win raffle, Kotoko Express and the match on Sunday at the stadium. In between I will be on the radio selling this match

Gland Park last Sunday was extraordinary. On Monday I had a meeting with Commander Obimpeh about what we could contribute for the Millennium celebrations. Before we started he expressed surprise at the fact that Kotoko had managed to win in Takoradi. I was not surprised. The boys …our boys had not been properly focused in recent weeks. The team had also suffered from injuries and red card offences. Kotoko for the Hearts match will be at almost full strength for the first time in a long time. It was Commander Obimpeh’s birthday on Monday. Happy Birthday.

Again I have to mention that I was made very welcomed in Takoradi by Kennedy Adjapong. That man Kennedy showed that he could back up his words with deeds. He single handily paid for the Hotel and feeding bills of the players. I take my hat off to him again. He has now fully convinced me that he is a man to be a part of the Kotoko dream for the future. I have now decided to open a regional office for Asante Kotoko in Takoradi. This office will handle all Kotoko business in the area. It will also be “hooked” up to both Kumasi and Accra via e’mail. This is the new beginning. Ultimately we will open Kotoko centres in Sunyani, Tamale and Wa! Creating distribution centres etc. for our programmes will all as well as the Asante Kotoko Express. I still make my appeal for professional young people to come get involved in Kotoko. I know it’s difficult for many people to make that move for fear that they will lose their jobs when I am asked to leave or leave on my own accord. But Kotoko needs them. The brave ones who love Kotoko must come forward.

I am still waiting for the trigger happy PLB to take action or make a statement against the Hasaacas Football Club following the disgraceful incident in which a linesman had his ear cut following the throwing of a missile by a Hasaacas fan. I heard that some of the Accra Hearts of Oak players were also badly behaved. Harry defended them on Sporting Highlights. For me the point is that we have to be careful not to give players the idea that we condone violence.

The one issue I must make a statement on is Jonas Akorli. I was deeply saddened to see Jonas go to the media with some extraordinary statements. The statements seem to me to have been manipulated by other parties. I do not believe that Jonas in his right mind could have possibly have gone to the press with such statements. There is simply no truth in the matter that I would be involved in such a bribery scandal. I also find it ridiculous that a bribe would be offered with a cheque. There are certainly no cheques or cheque stubs which indicate such a transaction. The sad truth of the matter is that I spoke with Jonas last Tuesday when he called. I put two questions to him. The first was that as the father figure of the team I would have thought that the least he could have done would have been to come directly to me rather than to go to the media. Those actions simply embarrassed the Club, it’s officers and its owner. Secondly I put it to him that culturally we deal with things internally and not in the manner in which he has done. The other sad fact is that Jonas has now forced my hand. His currently has no contract with Kotoko. Initially he only signed until September. We are still waiting for the GFA to sit on the matter involving Kotoko and Goldfields on the matter of Goldfields giving the same player monies!

I also had a positive meeting with E.K. Adu. He wants to help and for this I am grateful. Many wise heads are always better than one. He thought that maybe I had been keeping my distance because of the ongoing probe. I explained that I was trying to put things together since Kotoko had serious financial problems. Another Chairman whom I have great respect for, Mr. Yaw Bawuah also came to see me recently. I explained that I was moving up and down trying to resolve Kotoko financials. He understood and I was both flattered and humbled. Apparent silence should never be taken as disrespect. Once the basics are gotten into order the etiquette of dealing with predecessors will be undertaken.

For next season Kotoko will be demanding a winner takes all strategy. At Gland Park with the stadium totally full Hasaacas declared that Koto’s share of proceeds was a mere ¢1m (one million cedis). This is so debatable. With a home team taking all this nonsense will cease!

Part one of the rebuilding process of the field and on the field has started. In Takoradi they say Kotoko….”The greatest!!!!”

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